The moon is not an easy place for a small rover to explore: from its sharp, glass-like dust that shatters components to the crater marks that cover its surface and that a rover has to maneuver over, it’s a challenging place to explore. move. To make sure your next VIPER rover be ready for the challenges of the lunar environment, the POT has been testing the rover on a moon-like obstacle course here on Earth.
The goal of the VIPER rover is to search for key resources for future manned missions to the Moon, in particular water ice. Centering around the moon’s south pole, the rover will search for water ice ahead of planned crewed missions under the Artemis program.
The mission had been planned for launch in November 2023, but this date has been pushed back to November 2024 to allow more time for testing. This test includes challenges for the rover such as facing “quicksand ground” and maneuvering around inclines, rocks and craters.
In NASA websiteyou can see video footage of the rover in action, including facing a dusty pit and steep slopes at a test facility at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland that simulates the lunar environment.
“We wanted to see if the rover is capable of moving forward in an extreme sinking environment, and how much slower VIPER could drive or how much extra power the rover would use due to difficult ground conditions,” said Mercedes Herreras-Martínez, risk manager for VIPER and mission systems engineering technical exchange leader, in a release.
From these tests, engineers can see how the rover will perform on the moon and whether it will be able to get unstuck if it finds itself in a tricky environment. This helps the team prepare for what happens if the rover hits an unexpected obstacle or problem.
“We’ve captured a lot of data with these tests about what happens when the rover’s wheels grind on rock or slide on loose terrain, and any sensors drift, when the rover drifts slightly,” said Arno Rogg, rover test manager and systems engineer.